Claiming the right to the city: cooperation, occupancy, community

Rafaela Scardino


Paul Auster's Sunset Park tells the story of a group of youngsters that become homeless in the wake of the American economic recession in 2008. Together, they form an alternative society within an abandoned house. By occupying that house, they engage in an everyday practice of cooperation and communal work. Such engagement is analysed through the lenses of sociologist Richard Sennett, who suggests that the cooperation – and the social group that emerges from cooperation – can act as an escape for those who lie outside the economic order. Sennett also proposes that, by cooperating among themselves, those outsiders can look beyond their limitations – or rather the limitations that have always been imposed on them. In Auster’s novel, the characters continually negotiate and reconfigure emotional and economic relations, learning to open up to each other, and to put themselves always on the margins of predetermined social roles. And these small displacements, as well as literary writing, have a great potential for contamination, for effectively touching others in a recognition of the power that conforms us.


Paul Auster; Cooperation; Squatting; Sunset Park


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Copyright (c) 2017 Rafaela Scardino

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